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Job incentives and equal pay

The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (paragraph 53.1) allows schools with delegated budgets to offer recruitment and retention incentives to teachers. Examples of benefits include private healthcare and gym membership.

At least one local council has advised that schools should not offer such incentives because it would put the authority at risk of equal pay claims from teachers at other schools. For good measure, the council warned that if a school went ahead, the cost of any such claim would be deducted from its delegated budget.

Against such a threat, few schools would be willing to introduce such incentives.

The Equal Pay Act has been with us for over 30 years but is still a fruitful area for debate and we are still a long way from removing pay inequalities between women and men. The Act entitles a woman to equal pay with any man (and visa versa) in the same employment for equal work.

An employer can defend an equal pay claim by showing that the difference in pay is explained by a material factor that has nothing to do with gender.

This gives rise to two issues: whether in fact this would leave the local authority vulnerable to claims, and if it would, does this give the authority the right to deduct the cost of such claims from the school's budget?

Councils are a bit twitchy about equal pay claims at the moment. But the fact that governing bodies have the statutory power to give incentives would seem to give local authorities a good material factor defence. And while a council can, in certain circumstances, deduct from the school's budget the costs associated with a member of staff's dismissal or resignation, it is questionable whether it could lawfully make a deduction where it considered that governing body had put it at risk of an equal pay claim.

Simon Thomas

Solicitor, National Association of Head Teachers

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